Talking about Mental Health: Scenarios and Responses – Scenario Seven

The following is an excerpt from the handout Talking about Mental Health: Scenarios and Responses, included in Starting a Conversation about Mental Health: Foundational Training for Students. The guide is a facilitator’s guide for use with post-secondary students and the scenarios offer suggestions on how to respond to students who are overwhelmed and feeling distressed. 

These scenarios can be used as starting points for discussions and continued thought about how we can respond with empathy to students while recognizing and honouring their strengths and capacity to achieve balance. We will be reprinting one new scenario every month on our blog.

Scenario Seven

International student who is not able to pay fees

An international student you know from classes is not able to pay all their fees for the semester. The student tells you that they didn’t get any kind of financial aid. They discussed their situation with their parents, but they are not able to send money because their business was shut down during the pandemic. The student is really upset and appears to be on the verge of tears when they talk to you. They are worried they’ll have to drop out and say they feel helpless and very stressed.

Key points

  • Highlight support and empathy.
  • Tell them about resources on campus, such as financial aid, international student services, and health and wellness services.
  • Offer to help them connect with a local food bank.

Possible response

I’m sorry to hear that you are having such a difficult time. I can understand that this is very stressful and heartbreaking for you. Did you know there are a lot of really helpful services right here on campus? You could also talk to someone in international student services to see if they have any suggestions. And there’s also the financial aid office on campus, and they may be able to suggest bursaries or loans. The health and wellness centre has staff and counsellors who can help you if you are feeling stressed and low. There’s also the food bank on campus, which provides free food to students in need. I can help you connect with all of these services if you’d like.

Unhelpful responses

  • Why don’t you just get a job? That’s what most students do when they’re short of cash.
  • So how much money does your family make and how much are they sending you?

This handout is licensed under a Starting a Conversation about Mental Health: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Foundational Training for Students International license (CC BY 4.0 license). © Mehakpreet Kaur (CC BY 4.0 license) 

“Starting a Conversation about Mental Health: Foundational Training for Students” includes a facilitator’s guide with handouts and a PowerPoint presentation. This adaptable training resource covers foundational mental health and wellness information for post-secondary students and ways to respond to peers who are experiencing distress. It can be used for a two-to three-hour synchronous training session or for self-study. 

Learn more:

The featured image for this post (viewable in the BCcampus News section at the bottom of our homepage) is by cottonbro